Yes, more of this please.
PICTURES OF KATLYN GUNN’S little girl line the walls, cover the fridge and top the tables. Her baby’s name — Kylie — loops across her inner wrist, a tattooed reminder when the child isn’t in her arms.
“She’s my everything,” the 18-year-old Dartmouth mother says. “If I didn’t have her, I don’t know where I’d be.”
Perhaps the same could be said of where she actually is — a unique apartment complex, once a 1950s parochial school, tucked away behind a Dartmouth church.
These days, it’s a sanctuary of sorts for young single mothers like Katlyn. And the staff of volunteers guides the girls to far greater life lessons. Like how to bond with their babies, how to balance their chequebooks, how to rise above the people or places or behaviours that have been keeping them down.
The non-profit Supportive Housing for Young Mothers (SHYM) opened this 14-unit dwelling in October 2007, after extensive renovations funded by the federal government.
The organization bought the building — owned by Halifax Regional Municipality and used as a storage facility — for $1.
Single mothers aged 16 to 24, mostly teenagers, live in most of the units, although two units are set aside for staff, one of whom is a permanent resident. The girls stay for up to two years, occasionally longer. Most have no place else to go.
Katlyn used to live in group homes.
Former resident Amanda Young used to be homeless, going from friend’s house to friend’s house — and spending a month at a Halifax shelter with her now 3½-year-old son Jordan — until she came here.
“For one reason or another, they’re not able to live with their families,” says SHYM executive director Wendy Fraser. “Those reasons can be anything from financial, to capacity of the family, to mental health or drug and alcohol issues.
“There’s not really any one scenario that would fit for any of them. The common denominator is that they were young and didn’t have family that was able to provide the support they needed.”